In the bravest, saddest poetry you are likely to read, Vincent Bell writes first-hand on the brink of the nothingness of dementia.
Poetry can be an especially cerebral form of expression, an act of playing mind games with language. Only here the game is deadly earnest, because the nothing in the title of this spare but vital collection is the prospect faced by the poet, writing from within the experience of dementia, on the edge of losing language, and mind, altogether. That makes this a very harrowing, and necessary, read. Necessary because, as Bell admits, “Denial is the loudest component / of the early stages of dementia.” Instead of denial, he writes with painful honesty. “I’ve crawled endless miles / through words connectionless— / begging sometimes even crying / for meaning // and finally when I have it / waking the next day / just to see water.” Thankfully, here his words do connect, and connect us to his experience. This is the saddest, and bravest, poetry you may ever read.
“As it turns out, THE LEADING EDGE OF NOTHING goes deep into everything. Vincent Bell writes as if his entire life is at stake – and it is, as dementia slowly steals his memory. With unexpected clarity, Bell’s poems take us into the far reaches of forgetting and grief. Each perfect word from his beautiful and aching mind will linger in your heart.”
—Nancy Stearns Bercaw, author of Brain in a Jar: A Daughter’s Journey through Her Father’s Memory
“Vincent Bell, in THE LEADING EDGE OF NOTHING, is a poet at the peak of his writing ability. This is particularly cruel because with his recent diagnosis of vascular dementia, this could be the last collection from this talented poet. We have many collections that report what it's like to care for someone with a chronic illness but very few which speak from the abyss itself. As Virginia Woolf writes in On Being Ill, 'English, which can express the thoughts of Hamlet and the tragedy of Lear, has no words for the shiver and the headache... He is forced to coin words himself, and, taking his pain in one hand, and a lump of pure sound in the other... so to crush them together that a brand new word in the end drops out.' Bell has created a new lexicon for discussing the disorentiating tragedy of living with a terminal diagnosis. This slender chapbook is necessary reading for anyone who understands 'you never get better. / You just have days when you're less worse.'”
—Jennifer Franklin, author of If Some God Shakes Your House
“These poems dig down deep into our sympathy, and our fears—our dread of human fragility. Clear-sighted and—despite the diagnosis—clear minded, Vincent Bell leads us to that metaphorical beach, that liminal edge, where—as he puts it—'we walk / in the surf, feet sinking in the sands.' So, we say to ourselves, this is what it’s like. Bell’s poems are beautiful, but hard, the way diamonds are.”
—Paul Kane, Professor Emeritus, Vassar College, author of A Passing Bell: Ghazals for Tina
Vincent Bell grew up in New York City and has a BS and MA from New York University and an MBA from Fordham University. In late 2021 Vincent's full-length poetry book Gut Renovations was published by Kelsay Books. His poetry also has appeared in New Croton Review, upstreet 16, PANK, The Ravens Perch, Mudfish 21, offcourse, J Journal, and The Westchester Review. He lives with his wife in Ardsley, New York. They have two adult children with families of their own.